Constant threats against journalists in Syria
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is saddened by the news of Syrian citizen-cameraman Khaled El Issa’s death in a Turkish hospital from injuries sustained in a bomb attack in the northwestern city of Aleppo. RSF also condemns Islamic State’s filmed murders of five Syrian citizen-journalists in the eastern city of Deir Ezzor.
Issa, 25, died in a hospital in the Turkish city of Antakya on the evening of 24 June from injuries caused late on the night of 16 June by a homemade bomb targeting the building where he lived in the Aleppo district of Chaar with fellow journalist Hadi AbdullahHadi Abdullah.
Abdullah was also badly injured in the bombing, which was widely condemned on social networks as an attempt to murder the two Syrian journalists and activists. Two days before the bombing, both Issa and Abdullah sustained head injuries while covering the fighting in Aleppo.
The gruesome murders in Deir Ezzor of five citizen-journalists accused of criticizing Islamic State in their reporting or just working for news media were shown in a video entitled “Inspiration of Satan” that the extremist group released on 26 June.
“We offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims and firmly condemn all threats and attacks against journalists, both professional and non-professional, by the various parties to the conflict in Syria,” said Alexandra El Khazen, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk.
“These journalists take enormous risks just to do their work. Not only are all parties to the conflict responsible for abuses against journalists but it is also crucial for the authorities in receiving countries to protect journalists fleeing from the war’s horrors.”
Both Issa and Abdullah were hospitalized in Turkey. Whereas Abdullah’s condition stabilized, Issa remained in a coma and in a critical condition. On 23 June, a campaign was launched on social networks in support of Issa and to pressure the German government to give him a medical visa. The visa was finally issued but Issa succumbed to his injuries before he could be transferred.
The Islamic State video showed the five citizen-journalists talking about their journalistic activities and then being murdered in various brutal ways. The video made directs threats against all those who work for media outlets or NGOs that criticize Islamic State, both within Syria and abroad.
Islamic State also claimed responsibility for Syrian journalist Zaher Al Sherqat’s murder in the Turkish city of Gaziantep in April and showed the photos of Naji Jerf, Ibrahim Abdel Qader and Fares Hammadi – other Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists murdered in Turkey. RSF has not been able to verify the journalistic activity of the citizen-journalists shown in the video.
Last year, RSF asked the UN Security Council to refer crimes against journalists in Iraq and Syria to the International Criminal Court.
Syria is ranked 177th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.